University of Kent Studies Impact of VR On Exercise

A number of virtual reality (VR) apps try and encourage users to be more active, by making physical activity into a game with tangible goals. A study by the University of Kent now shows that using VR during physical activity can have a positive impact for users.

The research was led by PhD candidate Maria Matsangidou from the University of Kent’s School of engineering and Digital Arts. The purpose of the study was to determine how using VR while exercising could affect performance by measuring a range of criteria including heart rate, pain intensity and perceived exhaustion.

Eighty individuals volunteered to be monitored when performing an isometric bicep curl, set at 20% of the maximum weight that they could lift. The participants were then asked to hold it for as long as possible Half the group acted as a control, performing the lift in a room that held a chair, table and yoga mat.

Meanwhile, the other half of the group was placed in the same room, but given a VR headset which showed the same environment, including a virtual re-creation of the arm and the weight. This group was tasked with doing the same lift and hold as the control group.

The results showed a clear reduction in the perception of pain and effort when wearing the VR technology. The data showed that after one minute the VR group showed a 10% lower pain intensity compared to the non-VR control group.

In addition, the VR group went for two minutes longer before reporting exhaustion than the non-VR control group. The VR group also showed a lower heart rate of three beats per minute than the non-VR control group.

Lead researcher Maria Matsangidou said: “It is clear from the data gathered that the use of VR technology can improve performance during exercise on a number of criteria. This could have major implications for exercise regimes for everyone, from occasional gym users to professional athletes.”

The paper has been published in the journal Psychology Sports and Exercise. For future coverage of VR use in health and wellbeing, keep checking back with VRFocus.